With their fourth album having been released earlier this year, it’s been an eventful 2015 for Cairokee. As possibly the biggest band in Egypt today, the five-man group are slowly but surely building a unique musical legacy that has seen them contribute to the rise of a different type of music in Egypt.
Ahead of sell-out concert at the Music Tent, Cairo Gossip’s Mahmoud Hussein sat down with front-man, Amir Eid, and keyboardist, Sherif Mostafa, for a little chitchat about the revolution, the local music scene, Bassem Youssef and Egyptian women’s insatiable lust for band-mate, Tamer Hesham.
It’s been a busy few months for you guys with the release of a new album. How does Nas w Nas differ from your previous records?
Amir: When we sat down to brainstorm, we consciously decided that it would be something different – a new style to introduce to fans. We didn’t want to tap into things we’d already talked about before – freedom, justice, social equality, etc. We just didn’t want to be repetitive and tried to inject the overall album with a sense of diversity. We produced the album ourselves, so we had complete control. Overall, I think our hard work paid off and we’re really satisfied with the end result.
You guys have been in ‘the game’ for ten years now – how has the local music scene changed for someone who’s neck-deep in it?
Amir: The scene has definitely changed. I remember when we first started our music was not accepted – it was too different to what had come to be expected from Egyptian music. Nowadays, though, people are generally more accepting of new bands and have started to break out of what they would usually listen to. Since the revolution, an underground music scene has developed, access to equipment is easier and the industry is more open to hearing new concepts and ideas.
Sherif: But we’ve changed, as a band, over the years, too. We were only able to really perform at El Sawy Culturewheel before, but now, whether it’s us or any other Egyptian or Arab band, this is the type of music that people are seeking out because musicians have the confidence to say what they want.
Speaking of the revolution, how did Sout El Horreya come to be?
Amir: We had so much energy at the time like everyone else. We frustrated about how the media was covering what was happening in Tahrir Square and we wanted to show what was really happening through our medium. I remember we worked for 48 hours straight, and everyone went to shoot a different scene so that we could get it out as soon as possible – we filmed them with our mobiles! It was difficult – after recording the song itself, we had doubts about releasing it.
I’m sure you’re glad you did – were you surprised at how popular it became?
Sherif: Yes – it was a race against time. We wanted to capture a moment in history and, as musicians, it was our way of contributing to the revolution, but we didn’t think it would become so big. Getting YouTube likes or views was never our concern; we just wanted to document what was really happening.
You touched on the revolution and its fall out with Ya El Midan and Ethbat Makanek, too – were there ever any worries that you’d be pegged as a band that was feeding off the revolution?
Amir: None of these songs were planned – it was just us reacting to whatever was going on. In Ya El Medan with we wanted to write something that would go down in history. We wanted to show the revolution from our perspective and to talk about more than just the politics of the situation. A lot of people wanted to say what we said, but didn’t have the right tools or platforms.
History books rarely tell the whole truth. Back in the days, it was Sheikh Imam and Ahmed Foad Negm who were speaking out from a perspective that mainstream media was not portraying. Listen to people like Sheikh Imam and read what Ahmed Foad Negm had to say about a certain event and it’s very different to what newspapers were saying, for example. But art is history, whether it’s a painting, a song, or a movie and quite often, they’re given more faithful reflections of a culture at a certain time than the history books.
Amir, many questioned your decision to perform at the June 2013 protests at Ittihadiya – was it a good idea in hindsight?
Amir: For me, I think I made a mistake by playing in the midst of the protests. I was naïve because after the Tamarod movement, things didn’t actually turn out to be the way we wanted. I don’t regret it in anyway, but it taught me to look at things from a wider perspective.
You guys definitely made an impact, but what about other musicians or media personalities? If you were there to inspire, who was inspiring you?
Amir: For us, Bassem Youssef was a very important part of the revolution. He questioned, he objected and he dared to present a different view from that of mainstream media. He spoke to, and for, so many people – he was important because he presented different opinions and everyone loved him because of the way he used humour.
You guys must be BFFs now after appearing on his show three times!
Amir: His viewership was huge, so we were honoured to appear on his show more than once. El Bernmag was something we loved and watched every week, so it was great to be a part of it. We’re not quite BFFs, but we haven’t made a television appearance since our third and last appearance on Bassem’s show. There’s no one as real or as honest as him – Bassem was our voice and is true to himself and to a lot of people who can’t speak up.
We’re getting close to the end, so let’s talk about something a little lighter – musical inspiration? Whoever gives the best answer will win…umm…this pen that I just found in my pocket!
Amir: Bob Dylan has a huge role in shaping my life growing up.
Sherif: To me my inspiration is the life I’m living right now. Everything that is happening to me is inspirational in some way. Every day events and experiences that I come by inspire me. But listening to other musicians perform live inspires me too.
Sherif wins hands down – sorry Amir. Let’s go lighter. You’re a good looking bunch of fellas, but we understand that Tamer (Hashem) is the one who gets all the women – apparently, it’s something about the way his beefy forearms move at lightening quick speed on the drums. Are you jealous? Because I’m pretty jealous of his ponytail.
Amir: Ha! We can never be jealous, we’re family. You can’t be jealous of your brother! As time goes on, we’re discovering new types of fans and Tamer seems to have secured the female segment of the market! We have no problem with girls crushing on Tamer – all it means is that there are more people listening to our music.
By Mahmoud Hussein